A flexible quantitative methodology for the analysis of gene-flow between conventionally bred maize populations using microsatellite markers

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Previous studies of gene-flow in agriculture have used a range of physical and biochemical markers, including transgenes. However, physical and biochemical markers are not available for all commercial varieties, and transgenes are difficult to use when trying to estimate gene flow in the field where the use of transgenes is often restricted. Here, we demonstrate the use of simple sequence repeat microsatellite markers (SSRs) to study gene flow in maize. Developing the first quantitative analysis of pooled SSR samples resulted in a high sampling efficiency which minimised the use of resources and greatly enhanced the possibility of hybrid detection. We were able to quantitatively distinguish hybrids in pools of ten samples from non-hybrid parental lines in all of the 24 pair-wise combinations of commercial varieties tested. The technique was used to determine gene flow in field studies, from which a simple model describing gene flow in maize was developed.